Hertsel Shadian, Attorney at Law, LLC

Do You Have to File a Tax Return?

5 February 2010

You must file an individual income tax return if your income for the year is above a certain level. The amount varies depending on your filing status, your age and the type of income you receive.

You should consult your professional tax advisor to determine if you are required to file a tax return.  Otherwise, you can check the Individuals section of IRS.gov, or consult the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ for specific details that may affect your need to file a tax return with the IRS this year.

Even if you don’t have to file, e.g., because your income is below the minimum filing threshold, here are eight reasons why the IRS advises you still may want to file a return:

  1. Federal Income Tax Withheld. Even if you are not required to file, you should file to get money back if Federal Income Tax was withheld from your pay, if you made estimated tax payments, or if you had a prior year overpayment applied to this year’s tax.
  2. Making Work Pay Credit. You may be able to take this credit if you have earned income from work. The IRS advises that the maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.
  3. Government Retiree Credit. You may be eligible for this credit if you received a government pension or annuity payment in 2009. However, the amount of this credit reduces any making work pay credit you receive.
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). You may qualify for the EITC if you worked, but did not earn a lot of money. The EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means you could qualify for a tax refund.
  5. Additional Child Tax Credit. This credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child and you did not get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit.
  6. Refundable American Opportunity Credit. This education tax credit is available for 2009 and 2010. The IRS advises that the maximum credit per student is $2,500 and the first four years of post-secondary education qualify.
  7. First-Time Homebuyer Credit. The IRS advises that the credit is a maximum of $8,000 or $4,000 if your filing status is married filing separately. The credit applies to homes bought anytime in 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, the IRS reminds you that you have until on or before June 30, 2010, if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010. The IRS further reminds you that if you bought a home after November 6, 2009, you may be able to qualify and claim the credit even if you already owned a home. In this case, the IRS advises that the maximum credit for long-time residents is $6,500, or $3,250 if your filing status is married filing separately.
  8. Health Coverage Tax Credit. Certain individuals, who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit worth 80 percent of monthly health insurance premiums when you file your 2009 tax return.

For more information about your filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, consult your professional tax preparer or tax advisor, or visit the official IRS website at IRS.gov.